Updated: May 6
I've never been one for jargon.
I've never been one for buzz words.
In fact, I approach frameworks and strategies with a healthy skepticism.
I believe in firm tactics that can drive results - I believe in behaviors that can be trained, validated, and measured.
That is how the best leaders win. They define their strategies through key moves that drive results.
I also believe we are poised on the verge of an amazing comeback and I want to be sure all businesses are prepared as we reopen our economies for business. It will certainly take a measured, considered approach to ensure safety and service, but the spirit of hospitality cannot be denied as we reboot our businesses.
Now this won't be like a light switch. It won't be easy. But it will be worth it as things begin to normalize.
As many states across the U.S. take their first steps toward reopening, let's examine what you can do to find success in our evolving business model.
JOIN ME FOR THE GREAT SERVICE COMEBACK!
CHECK OUT THE STRATEGY YOU NEED TO RE-OPEN STRONG AND GROW
THE GREAT SERVICE COMEBACK framework will help define not only the key moves, but the behaviors you need to inspire in yourself and your team to provide the best customer experiences possible during re-opening.
This matters because those who are quickest to find their footing will be best positioned to retain their customers and grow their businesses. This restart will be extremely competitive and I want to help.
This is the non negotiable during the path forward (as it has always been). This means embedding safety within every facet of your organization. It must be embraced from the executive level to the front line and must be the first priority every day. Please consider your team's safety and your customer's safety in tandem. The cleaning and distancing you implement in your front of house areas must be replicated within your back of house operations as well. You must consider things such as face masks, shields, cleaning the doorknobs, and how will you sanitize work stations.
You may be working with chemicals in a way you never have before and asking team members to take on duties beyond their normal scope. Those at the front desk may be cleaning and sanitizing. Your restaurant servers may be doing more with disinfecting. Your cashiers may have to enforce social distancing. Be sure that your team is trained on the proper use of new tools, chemicals, or equipment - and also that they are clear on the expectations for their positions.
Customer service will take on a new, but familiar flavor in the evolving economy. You will find a hunger for human connection tempered with a stand-offish nature. This dichotomy will become less pronounced over time, but right now the spirit of empathy will guide your service and decision making. You and your team will need to observe the verbal and non-verbal cues of your customers to serve them in a way that meets their needs. It begins with a caring approach that puts customers at the center of your thinking. You can lay a foundation for this by selecting team members who have great attitudes and reinforce through intentional training. Training is where you directly connect strategy to execution - because everything is driven by the behaviors of your team. Also keep in mind that some of the safety measures in place - masks and spacing - might bring some inconveniences to service that need to be considered. You can't emote the same way from behind a mask and it could be difficult to understand someone from farther away.
Be sure that you reaffirm your commitment to great service and human connections during your start up. Check out my video on the steps of service and feel free to show at your start up meeting or pre-shift rallies.
Great customer experiences must include a quality product or service. Just being nice isn't enough - you have to make sure that you are providing both value and solutions for your customers. One of the fundamentals that fuels quality is a consistent experience that your guests can count on.
Customers are easily frustrated by businesses that deliver variable levels of quality across channels or visits.
Consistency isn't just the pizza being hot and fresh every time. It means that you have a great ordering website, delicious pizza, and that you always charge the same amount for a bottle of soda. Any breakdown in a channel can also leave your customers feeling confused about your commitment to excellence.
Consistent quality builds trust in your brand - and customers will be far more likely to give loyalty and advocacy to companies they trust. Making sure your team is confident and competent in their roles is paramount here and is fundamentally driven by training and follow up. Leaders who prioritize training and audit quality find success with consistency. But this takes a force of will to ensure follow up and to never accept less than top notch quality.
This is going to be a key point of differentiation coming out of coronavirus distancing (although it was already important). Many businesses have backed off on restrictive policies in favor of those that make more sense and remove complexity. Customers want thoughtful service that respects their time - being both on time and timely. Poor speed of service continues to be a dissatisfier, particularly in retail and call center environments. Customer want to provide minimum effort to conduct their business and solve their problems, but will reward those who help them save time and effort with their business. That doesn't mean that customers don't want to utilize self service - in fact quite the opposite. They are willing to do so, as long as the technology works quickly and is easy to understand. When it becomes harder than conducting the business with an agent, then they are likely to bail on you.
Some companies have already been experimenting with this concept - removing ridiculous policies and penalties. Airlines have not been assessing the $200 change fees on tickets and cancellation penalties at hotels have been put on pause for the time being.
There will be an appetite for these dispensations to continue and savvy businesses will find a way to keep them in place even as the economy reopens more fully.
These four pillars form the cornerstone for success in the evolving economy. The marketplace will still be familiar, but there will be some nuances we can't ignore. But that is the way it has always been. Service evolves and changes - we have just accelerated the next generation of service expectations.
If you want to come back strong and make your mark as we reopen, look at these principles from the point of view of your customers and take action.
Ensure you have the right team in place and then bring them in close - figuratively for now, of course. But make sure they understand the high stakes environment we are entering and that this is a unique chance to reinvent and energize service for the better.
This is an exciting time to be in the service business - as customers will need kindness and problem solving more than ever.
Be good to them. Be good to your team. And keep them both at the center of everything you do.
Tony Johnson, CCXP
Customer Experience Speaker | Author |Trainer | Consultant
Improve Your Customer Service with my Book:
TOGETHER WE SERVE: Four Proven Strategies to Create Winning Experiences for Your Guests and Your Team Click to Purchase on Amazon.com
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